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Four gone conclusion

Team must have all lines rolling

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / January 3, 2012
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WILMINGTON - For most of the 17 minutes of last Saturday’s first intermission, Shawn Thornton rode a stationary bike outside the American Airlines Center visitors’ room.

When you skate only three shifts for 2:19 of ice time in the first period, such things are necessary to pump some life back into your legs.

“I didn’t get on the ice until the nine-minute mark,’’ Thornton recalled after yesterday’s Bruins practice at Ristuccia Arena. “So it’s tough to gauge. I think once the third period came around, our line had a few good shifts. Before that, it was pretty sporadic. I don’t think we really got into a rhythm. Penalty trouble put us in that predicament.’’

Thornton and fourth-line mates Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell are usually good indicators of how the Bruins are playing. If the fourth unit is getting regular shifts and producing scoring chances, the Bruins are likely executing their game plan of driving pucks deep, rolling four lines, and establishing the pace.

But when Thornton is on the bench, it can be a sign that things aren’t going the Bruins’ way.

Such was the case early in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars, which halted the Bruins’ seven-game winning streak. Just 2:08 into the game, Chris Kelly was sent off for an offensive-zone hooking penalty. Seven seconds later, Dennis Seidenberg followed Kelly into the penalty box for a delay-of-game infraction. During the five-on-three power play, Loui Eriksson beat Tim Thomas for the game’s first goal.

A holding-the-stick call on Brad Marchand and an interference penalty on Zdeno Chara completed the Bruins’ first-period parade to the box.

For Thornton, the only Boston forward who doesn’t see special-teams action, lots of penalties mean a reduction in ice time.

“Those two penalty-kill, too,’’ Thornton said of Campbell and Paille. “So after a penalty, it goes through the rotation again. So you end up being out a little longer. Then in the third, when there’s no penalties, you get some shifts and get your legs underneath you more. Then you create more pressure. I think we had a couple good shifts in the third.’’

Thornton’s predicament underscores how crucial a clean and disciplined start is to the Bruins’ approach for success. When the Bruins stay out of the box and roll four lines early, they’re setting the tone. Like most clubs, the Bruins have a harder time chasing the game and erasing deficits.

“We like to start, as a team, where we get everybody in the game early and get everybody on a bit of a roll,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “What happened the last game certainly put us on our heels a little bit. We still managed to tie the game. [Tyler] Seguin hit the crossbar, which would have given us the lead. They turned around, came back, scored, and took the game away from us. We didn’t have as smooth a start as we would have liked. I don’t think that’s the only reason it happened. But that certainly didn’t help our cause when we had that kind of start.’’

Krejci heating up

David Krejci will bring a five-game scoring streak into tomorrow’s game against New Jersey. Krejci assisted on both of Boston’s goals against the Stars.

In the first period, Krejci took a slap shot that Seguin tipped past Kari Lehtonen. In the third, Krejci, stickhandling along the left-side boards, set up Milan Lucic for a one-timer.

Krejci has seven goals and 16 assists in 32 games. Krejci has 10 shots during his scoring streak.

“When he’s at his best, he’s shooting more, skating, and putting himself in position to shoot more,’’ Julien said. “That’s one thing he mentioned he wanted to do a little bit better in that department. You see him shooting a lot more and looking to shoot more than he ever had. His game’s coming around. Different players have different starts. They have lows in their seasons at different times. He’s certainly picked up his game lately and been much better.’’

Name change

Tomorrow’s game against the Devils is on NBC Sports Network, which was formally known as Versus . . . The Bruins practiced their forecheck yesterday during their hourlong session at Ristuccia. “We need to get that back on track where we can get some more scoring chances,’’ Julien said. “Scoring chances have gone down a little bit lately. So we’ve got to touch that up a little bit.’’ The Bruins also engaged in down-low battle drills to end the practice . . . Rich Peverley and Zach Hamill took shifts on the right wing on the third line. Peverley is expected to play in his second straight game tomorrow after missing two contests because of an undisclosed injury . . . The Bruins recalled Jordan Caron from Providence before practice. Caron was the fourth forward on the fourth line. During his four-game stint in Providence, Caron recorded one assist. “We’ve got the room to carry 23 players,’’ Julien said. “It’s not a bad situation. We’ve been fortunate this year. We’ve been a pretty healthy hockey club.’’

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.

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